Your Nemesis, The Short Nap

February 23, 2012 |  by  |  0-3 Months, 1 YO, 3-6 Months, 6-9 Months, 9-12 Months, naps
Your Nemesis, The Short Nap

A short nap is generally anything between 10-45 minutes. Sometimes short naps sneak in during car trips or while nursing or taking a bottle. Sometimes a temporary sleep regression, ear infection, or ferocious bout of teething will result in short naps. But for some of you, short naps are simply a constant part of life. If so, you’re probably pretty keen to help your baby take longer naps because…

Short Naps Suck

There are many reasons why short naps suck but the big three are:

  • You’ll spend longer putting baby to sleep than your baby actually sleeps.
  • You never get break.
  • Babies who take consistently short naps are generally unhappy babies.

Really, neither you nor your baby is particularly happy about short naps.

The Short Nap Myth

You can’t make your newborn baby nap longer. Some babies will start taking longer naps earlier than others. There is always some Mom in the new baby playgroup that will tell you that their baby takes 3 hour naps all day long because of the magical book they read. Nope. Their baby is taking long naps because she is biologically ready to do so.

Want Long Naps?

Newborn babies will often take itty-bitty cat naps all day long until they consolidate their naps into longer chunkier naps. Nap consolidation can happen anytime between 6 weeks and 6 months. If you are the parent of a baby under 6 months you are probably pretty keen to have your baby consolidate naps. Parenting a cat napper can be exhausting and frustrating.


Sleep consolidation also reflects the maturation of intrinsic bioregulatory processes.

Unfortunately you can’t force a short-napper into taking longer naps. There are internal processes within your baby that need to develop and you can’t make it happen. Generally people refer to this as your baby’s circadian rhythm although it’s actually rather complex and involves multiple parts of the brain. You don’t need to know the specifics although you can impress your friends by dropping this quote (from the NIH article).

Just know that you can’t MAKE it happen and if yours is the last baby on the block taking short crappy naps, it’s not necessarily because you are failing as a parent, you have a bad baby, or because of that one glass of white wine you had when you were pregnant.

Short Naps For All Eternity?

You can, of course, delay nap consolidation by keeping your baby awake too long resulting in them becoming OVERtired. Overtired babies generally take short naps. If your baby is less than 6 months old and you’re doing everything you can to keep your baby from being awake too long, you’re providing lots of age-appropriate soothing, etc. and your baby STILL takes short naps, then it just means she isn’t ready to take longer naps yet. It’ll come.

However if your baby is older than 6 months and still taking short naps then you may have a problem.

  • The #1 reason babies over 6 months are taking short naps is that they’re not falling asleep on their own yet.
  • The #2 most common reason (which is actually related) is that you’re still using pacifiers and/or bottles at bedtime.
  • And #1 & #2 are almost always compounded by…
  • Keeping baby awake too long.
  • Lack of consistency (where they sleep, bedtime/nap routines, etc.).
  • Chronic sleep deprivation (tired babies are generally crappy nappers).

If you’re still rocking/nursing/bouncing them fully to sleep, or putting them to sleep with a pacifier or bottle, I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll take short naps forever. Helping your baby learn to fall asleep without you/bottle/pacifier is NOT EASY. Neither is getting your kid out of diapers, dealing with bullies, or having the condom talk. And yet these are all things you’ll have to do.

Similarly you are no longer the parent of a newborn who could easily sleep whenever and wherever it suited. As the parent of a regulation-sized baby it’s time to get serious about making sure you are home at nap time, using consistent routines when it’s time for sleep, and having your baby sleep in the same place round the clock.

How Long Is a Long Nap?

A long nap is generally around 1-1.5 hours although some lucky moms have been blessed with 3 hour nappers. You can identify these parents because of their healthy glow. And the fact that they’re about to get their first novel published.

So good luck getting your short napper to take long naps. Feel free to share how and when you achieved nap nirvana!

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{photo credit: yoshimov}


401 Comments


  1. Hi ladies, I’m a first-time mommy to an awesome four month old who used to not nap at all and then started “spoiling” us with a few rare 30min naps here and there… Until a few weeks ago…

    I think I may have figured out a MAGIC SOLUTION to longer naps (hmm maybe I can get rich fast) – and its called… swimming lessons!! Since we signed the little man up for swimming (30min lessons twice a week at 8.30am), he started having two 2.5 hr naps and great nights. The important BUT here is that although swimming has improved his napping/sleeping overall, its only really good on swim days and falls back apart the further we get from swim days.

    Anyhow, give it a try if you have a pool nearby and good luck!

    And Alexis – thanks so much for your posts, I found so much great info here. Definitely guilty of a few bad habits you mentioned and will be working on changing things.

  2. Hi Alexis, I am praying you can help me. My son is almost 8 months old, and since about 4 months, we are lucky if he naps for a total of 1 hour each day. he goes to bed on his own, with a nice routine: bottle, bath, stories, crib. some days he cries for 1 minute, some days he cries for 10 or 20. Then he usually wakes up once during the night to eat, and is up around 5-6 am and we feed him again and he usually falls back down asleep until about 7am. He then goes down for first nap about 2 hours after wake up, usually 9 and sleeps about 25-30 minutes. Then another nap around 1130-12, and same thing, sleeps 25-30 minutes, and a third nap around 3pm for 20-30 minutes, and then bedtime is usually 6pm. I don’t know why he cant nap longer since he goes to bed awake at night….
    What else can we do. He doesn’t really have a lovey. he has used a paci off and on, but that never seemed to help so we stopped using it. I am really at my wits end here…Help Please!!
    Dawn
    Dawn recently posted..Pediatrics Study on White Noise: Sounding Off on Sound MachinesMy Profile

    • Did you get it figured out? my daughter was like this too and I thought I’d go crazy. My daughter at night sleeps about 6:30 to 6:30, with one feeding but catnaps all the daytime since she was about 7 weeks old or so (she is now 6.5 months). I might have it figured out by increasing the awake time significantly, even though they are acting tired. She had been getting only 3 30 minute naps when I decided to do this. I saw it on someones blog who had a similar problem.

      • Can you be more specific about how you’ve improved the situation? My baby is 6 months old and has always been a catnapper as well – he typically takes three 25-30 min naps a day…can be quite frustrating. Do you remember what blog you read that helped? What are your baby’s naps like now?

        • See my post below for more details about what I tried. Honestly, I don’t think it was anything specific, at the time I thought that increasing her awake time between naps to 3 hours solved it, because it worked for some lady on a blog. When I first tried it, it worked! But it was difficult to keep her awake that long, so I decreased her awake time down to 2-2.25 hours and she still took a long nap. I think she was just ready for long naps. She used to take 3 20-40 minute naps per day up until about age 6 months. I tried letting her “resettle herself” when she was 4 months, 5 months, but it never worked. I think when she turned 6 months, she became even more active and was eating solid foods, it was just that something just “clicked” and she just started being able to resettle herself after 30 or 40 minutes and go for another sleep cycle, or even more…. I felt just like you, extremely frustrated and worried about her lack of sleep, and I thought she would NEVER take a long nap (she catnapped since about age 7 weeks old or so). I read all the sleep books, nothing worked, she just wasn’t able to do it. Her first “long nap” was 80 minutes and it happened 2 times in the first week at age 6 months. I thought it was a fluke and maybe she was sick. Then it happened again a couple days later, a long morning nap. Then by age 6.5 months, she started taking a daily morning long nap of at least 80 minutes, and two 40 minute catnaps in the afternoon. Now at nearly 7 months old, sometimes she takes two long naps (80+ minutes) and 1 late 30-40 minute catnap, or sometimes she takes a 40 minute catnap in the a.m. and a long afternoon nap. Sometimes (but not always) she wakes up after the 1st 40 minutes and resettles herself after 10 minutes or so of squirming/eye rubbing/yawning/talking. She could never do that before. I hate to say it, but I think you might just have to wait it out a little more and her naps will consolidate. You could try increasing the awake time to 3 hours, and see if it works, but you might wait a little bit longer, maybe 2 weeks or so and see if the naps naturally lengthen. I know how you feel though, it is SO HARD, and my baby fought EVERY SINGLE NAP unless she was nursed to sleep. She still fights napping. Good luck, hang in there, hopefully in the next month things will start to improve.

          • I should add that I put the baby in the crib to sleep while she is awake about 80% of the time and then leave and shut the door (very dark room, white noise). And I have generally been doing that since she was about 4 months old. Sometimes I nurse her to sleep if desperate though or nurse her till she is very drowsy then plop her in bed.

            • Hi there, for an update we still struggle with cat naps with my little one and he is 10 months old today.
              He usually goes down for the night around 7pm and sleeps til 5 or so, and gets a bottle around 5 and then goes back to sleep til 7 or so. I tried stretching the awake time and that didn’t help. whether he goes down for nap 2 hours after he has been up or 3 hours he still only naps about 30 minutes. There are rare occasions that he naps an hour, but that happens maybe once a week. I have just resounded myself to the fact that he is never going to be a good napper.
              We are now using a pacifier on occasion because he is teething (again) and I don’t know if this will come back to haunt us. Any thoughts are welcome!
              Dawn recently posted..7 Days to Chunky Naps and 11 Hour Nights – Reader Q&AMy Profile

            • Just another update on my little catnapper for those struggling with this issue. My baby is now almost 9 months old. We were still getting catnaps here and there and her schedule was non existent. She was down to 3 naps a day, usually one nap was a longer one of 1 hr 20 minutes and the others catnaps. When she was little 6 weeks to about 6.5 months she ALWAYS catnapped 30-40 minutes each. She started finally giving me 1 longer nap around 6.5 months and so we started a 3 nap day (she was on 4-5 catnaps per day, yuck!).

              She started to refuse to take a 3rd late afternoon nap around 8 months old. Her night sleep at that time was from 7pm-5am, nurse, then sleep until 6:30 or 7am, so almost 12 hrs and then the catnaps the rest of the day. Actually, that has been her schedule since she was 6 weeks old. She is able to put herself to sleep, and always does at bedtime, and doesn’t wake much in the night (except when she was little she would wake usually around 2am ish to nurse).

              She recently (around 8.5 months old) started decreasing her night sleep to about 10 or 10.5 hours (I couldn’t get her to nurse back to sleep at 5am any longer) and her nap length increased! I tracked this for the past few weeks and whenever she got 11 or more hours of sleep at night, she would catnap in the day. If she sleeps 9-10.5 hours at night (She sleeps straight through the night that long), she would take two – 1.5 hour naps. I think I was having her in bed too long at night. I read about this in the Ferber book. She seems to do best on 13.5 hours of sleep total per day but she averages about 13 hours total sleep, so she really can’t nap well if she sleeps so long at night.

              Maybe read Ferber’s book and see if any of his tips help you. I had read it awhile ago, but I also read all the other books that say babies need 12 hours of night sleep + 3 hours of naps so I was stuck on trying to get her to sleep long at night. It seemed to backfire on me with the catnapping and Ferber discusses this in his book. My baby both falls asleep on her own and sometimes nurses to sleep, either way seems to work for her, we didn’t have to do sleep training. Sometimes she fusses and cries a little before naps/bedtimes for a few mintutes, but it is because she is tired or is just protesting not playing anymore.

              When she was little (3-6 months old) I spent too much time trying to get her to sleep for naps when she had already slept 12 hours at night and maybe just wasn’t capable of additional daytime sleep as Ferber mentions. She was cranky and seemed a little tired during the day, but would just lay in her crib fussing or playing instead of napping and would ALWAYS catnap at that age.

              Our schedule is a little difficult though because she only sleeps about 10 or 10.5 hours a night and she dropped the late afternoon nap. She she wakes around 5am and naps around 8:15am. Then naps around 1pm or so, so she has long wake times which I don’t really like, but there isn’t much I can do about it. She consistently will not take a late afternoon nap.

              Anyways, I thought I would share an update on this, because I scoured all the websites for info on catnaps and did they ever stop, or how did they stop, etc. Hopefully this might help you a little. Recommend reading Ferber’s book on napping/sleeping. I didn’t need to do the sleep training, but struggled greatly with the catnapping issues and his book is helping me with that issue.

    • Have you tried going in soothing him, then leaving for ten to 15 minutes?
      He will cry. Keep doing it until he gets the message you expect him to take a longer nap!

      • Soothing/patting/picking up putting down never really helped my baby (with the exception of nursing) and that is where I don’t like the Ferber sleep training method. Picking up and putting down was the worst for her. She hated that, it was too stimulating. It makes my baby madder when I go in and delays her going to sleep, because she get so excited anytime I come in the room and seems to think I am coming to play or take her out of her crib.

  3. Hello Alexis! You’ve already helped us figure out how to help our son sleep better before! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. ;)
    Our son, H (11 weeks old), is a great night sleeper. He’s already averaging around 7 hours between nursings. He’s a breeze to put down. 98 percent of the time he doesn’t even cry initially. And during the middle of the night or for dream feeds, he doesn’t fuss at all.
    But he’s a chronic cat napper. You can set a timer on his exactly 30 minute naps. He goes down for naps just as easily as he does for bed time, so I don’t usually have to work hard getting him to sleep then. But it’s been virtually impossible to get him to sleep again after he wakes up from his 30 minutes. He’s a happy kid when he’s not being forced to try to nap. Should I just accept that this is how he’s napping for now?
    We already use swaddling, white noise, darkness, pacis, and a vibrating bouncy seat for his sleeping times. He goes out down to sleep drowsy, but still awake, and then falls asleep by himself. And we’ve tried everything we could think of or researched to try to get him to sleep after the initial 30 and not much has worked. We tried crying it out yesterday and he wouldn’t sleep again and then was not himself (clingy, fussy, and wouldn’t stop crying) for around 30 minutes after that.
    30 minute naps are inconvenient and annoying, but not something I can’t live through if it’s temporary.
    Bekah recently posted..Growing toward ChristlikenessMy Profile

    • This is my story exactly. My son, now 10 months can put himself to sleep at bedtime with no paci or anything else, and has been doing this for 4-5 months but he wont nap longer than 30 minutes no matter what we try. The more we let him cry to try to go back to sleep, the crankier he gets. Its worse if I go in and try to soothe him.
      we tried stretching time between naps, shortening time between naps, we follow same routine every day. Nothing has helped.
      Dawn B recently posted..7 Days to Chunky Naps and 11 Hour Nights – Reader Q&AMy Profile

  4. Hi! My situation with my 2nd baby is pretty much the same as Bekah’s. She’s almost 12 weeks, sleeps brilliantly all night and always goes to sleep on her own. However in the day, unless we’re out in the stroller she sleeps 30 mins at a time. I’ve started putting her to nap in the stroller at home now so I can jump up and rock it to try to get her into the next sleep cycle – with mixed results. Also started using the pacifier much more than I’d planned to, in desperation, so am a bit afraid it’ll turn into a nightmare for us soon. My first child was a short napper for sooooo long I really hoped there would be something I could do about it this time. We don’t have a nap routine. Could this be the problem? I can’t bear the idea of staying in all day and at this stage there’s no clear schedule for her day so it would be impossible to plan anything – plus with a toddler I do have to go out quite a lot. Is a swing the answer?? Or dare I say it, Gina Ford?!

  5. Sorry I meant to say that the reason I’m wondering whether I’m doing something wrong is that this is a relatively new thing. She’s been sleeping 6-10 hours at night since she was 5 weeks, and was having long day sleeps too. The 30 minute sleep is only appearing in the last few weeks and only when stationary! Thanks :-)

  6. My 6 month old daughter has not napped longer than 30-45 minutes at home since she was 2 months old. However, she takes a 1.5 hour morning nap and 2 – 3 hour afternoon nap at daycare. Should we be letting her cry it out at home when she wakes up from naps? Thank you!

    • My son does the same thing! At home we have him nap in the crib and only get 30-45 minute naps. At daycare, he’ll sleep 1.5-2 hours. I asked them what they do and they have him sleep in like a baby rocker and bundle blankets around him. I don’t want to move him out of the crib, so I won’t be following their lead. Any help would be so wonderful! I’m so tired of the cranky little boy I have in the afternoon.

  7. Hi Alexis!

    Thanks you for the fantastic site! I’d love your advice on one thing. My baby (10wks) is a terrible sleeper. His ‘bedtime’ tends to be somewhere between 9pm and 11pm. His first sleep is generally about 2.5 hrs, followed by 1.5. hrs and then a couple 45min-1hr sleeps (ugh!). But my question is about his naps. He takes about three 45min01hr naps throughout the day but then often takes a longer nap of 2.5-3hrs starting at about 5pm. I know they say never wake a sleeping baby, but I worry such a long nap so close to bedtime may have an effect of his very short first sleep after bedtime? Would you recommend we not allow him to nap for so long in the early evening to help him sleep longer at night or are the two likely unrelated?

    Thank you so much for the great resource!
    Emily
    Emily recently posted..Toby: 8 Week UpdateMy Profile

  8. So my 6.5 month old has been a catnapper since age 8 weeks. She is very alert and active (from birth) and she gives very few clear tired signs. She will go from wide awake playing / talking / wildness in her crib and then simply turn her head to the side and fall asleep (we have a video monitor). She would take 5 40 min naps a day and then we were down to 4 40 minute naps per day and recently, since about age 5.5 or 6 months, she went down to 3 30-40 minute naps per day. She sleeps very well at night, with only 1 waking to feed, sleeping about 11.5 hours at night. She usually woke up from the short naps smiling, but appeared to be tired 45 minutes to 1 hour after waking up, so I thought she was still tired. She usually goes to sleep on her own in her crib (after 10-30 minutes of talking/babbling). She really seems to like having the small “AngelDear” lovey in her crib so she can cuddle and suck on it, etc. She is still in the Baby Merlin sleep suit because she likes to roll over onto her belly and call out for me to roll her back. If it took her longer than 45 minutes to fall asleep, I would intervene and nurse her to sleep. She wasn’t on any regular schedule because I never knew when she would actually fall asleep. I tried all the various awake times over the months (45 minutes to 2.5 hours and more). About 2 weeks ago (at age 6 months exactly, and had been on solid food for about 2 weeks) she took her first nap longer than 40 minutes (1.5 hours! yipeee!). She did this 3 more times over the 2 week period, but there seemed to be no consistency, other then 3 of the 4 times it was for her morning nap. I recently came across a blog where the lady was in a similar situation with the catnaps and tried to increase her daughters awake time to 3 hours at age 4 months. It didn’t work. She tried again at 6 months and it worked and the baby started taking long naps. Well, I thought about it for a week and finally gave it a shot after my daughter was in the crib for 45 minutes not falling asleep (although yawning, etc.). I pulled her out of the crib and kept her up for another hour. Put her back down after being up for 3 hours and she slept 1.5 hours!!!! Her afternoon nap was still short though and she wouldn’t go down for a catnap before bedtime. Now I am on day two. I tried it again, keeping her up almost 3 hours after waking. It was hard, she started getting really tired after 2 hours. So I put her down at about 2 hr 45 minutes, nursing for a few minutes then plopped her in the crib and she fell right asleep and slept for 1.5 hours! I will keep working on this method until I find the right awake time, but I think her awake time was too short for her (many of the books say 1.5 – 2 hrs) as a very active and alert baby. Maybe it is more like 2 hr 45 minutes to 3 hours, even for the first nap, unlike what the books say. Anyways, I thought I’d share this with you.

    • I should add that she only sleeps well in a bed or crib in darkness and white noise machine on. When she was little (under 2 months old) she used to be able to fall asleep sometimes in the car and in a baby carrier like the Ergo, but not anymore. I take her on walks in a stoller and she doesn’t fall asleep, she seems way too interested in everything around her to bother with sleep. Also, if I disturb her during her wind down time in her crib, she gets fired up and excited and it makes it more difficult to fall asleep. When she was very little, like 6 weeks old, we were doing everything rocking/jiggling/bouncing, etc. to get her to fall asleep at bed time, and she was crying. Finally I decided to just set her down in her crib. She immediately stopped crying and then started talking to her self and she fell asleep! I couldn’t believe it. This didn’t work all the time at that age, but starting at about 3 months on, that is what she preferred for bed time and most naps.

      • My baby fusses when he wants me to put him down ;). Some babies are like that!

      • Just an update on this. At nearly 7 months old, she is still taking at least 1 long nap per day but I no longer think it was due to increasing her awake time (although it might have triggered the long naps). I think it was more just developmental, something finally just clicked and she can resettle after the first sleep cycle now. She has been taking long naps in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon too. I decreased her awake time from 3 hrs, to about 2 hrs before the first nap and 2.25 to 3 for the afternoon naps. Good luck, and know that you can try everything, but better just to go with the flow as much as possible and eventually your baby will figure it out, and then you can get on a schedule.

        • Hi Emily, My baby boy is 6.5 months. If he misses one cat nap (out of 4) he’s super tired… Why did you go back on the 3 hour break between naps?

          • Yes, we used to be on 4 catnaps, and then it got bad down to 3 catnaps! She was so tired. She still seemed tired on 4 catnaps too. Then one day, she just started resettling herself, this happened a couple of times per week. Then I tried a 3 hour awake time and she took a long nap 2 times in one day. But it was difficult to keep her up for 3 hours, she seemed tired. So I started throttling back to under 3 hours. Now it is 2 hours before 1st nap, then 2.25-2.5 hours between second and third naps and about 1.5 to 2 hrs awake before bedtime. The 2nd and 3rd naps are often only 40 minutes, but she now always gets one long nap of 1 hr 20 minutes or more. I think it was just a developmental thing, but not sure. She fights almost all naps, except when I nurse her to sleep, or nurse her to where she is almost asleep. I just let her fuss in her crib to sleep.

      • Did the 3 hr sleep method work?
        thanks!

  9. Hi Alexis! I just want to say I love wine, cheese, and Game of Thrones also!
    My boy is 6 months old and I am tackling night weaning right now.

  10. Hello!
    I’ve got a 10-month old baby boy, who has been sleeping through the night pretty solidly from about 7-months. (We had to do some CIO, which was rough, but he took to it pretty well.) However, I am a stay at home mom (I work evenings), and I cannot get baby to take naps in his crib. I have just been co-sleeping for his naps, which is sometimes nice, because I usually need the rest, but other times, it’s a pain. If I try to put him in his crib, drowsy, he throws a fit. Is this just a new CIO hurdle that I need to go through? I think it is tougher for me than it is for his father, who can ‘sometimes’ get him to take naps in his crib. Is doing CIO for naps different than nighttime sleep?
    Thank you!

    • My baby sometimes fusses and cries in her crib but there really is nothing I can do, I think she is crying because she is either very tired, or wants to nurse to sleep, but not because she hates the crib, because she has been taking naps / sleeping at night in her crib since very little. The minute I go in, she just got all excited and smiley that I was there, and then it would take forever for her to settle back down again. In the past, sometimes it took her about 30-45 minutes before she fell asleep in her crib, sometimes she would just squirm around, talk to herself, or fuss (and then she would only sleep for a 40 minute catnap! So frustrating!). I got a video cam because I was going in and checking on her and she was just getting fired up from it. So now I can just leave her be to settle down on her own. She won’t sleep if I am there watching her, she gets too excited. The only time I sleep next to her is if I nurse her to sleep and I want to sleep with her, but then I have to put a pillow in between us so she doesn’t see me (and she squirms a bunch so it is difficult for me to sleep with her). I think you might just have to let your baby fuss it out. I was lucky that my baby didn’t cry much, only fuss and whine for awhile, but she has cried on occasion, but that usually means she is extremely tired, and she is usually out of it after a few minutes (up to 15).

  11. Hi Alexis and mums!

    Well, my gorgeous 10 months old little girl and I are Staring into the abyss of CIO. One night down, 2 to go. First night she cried for 55 minutes, then it all went quiet. I tiptoed to her room to find her on her haunches, clinging onto the crib side fast asleep. Right there my heart tore from my chest and I dissolved into a right sobbing mess. I felt like I just deserved the worst parent in the world sash. How could this little angel understand that mummy still loves her and did not abandon her…..in the dark dark night. All I could think about was her crying for someone to give comfort,but no one came…;( I know it’s for her own good’ but the guilt is horrendous to swallow.

    We will persevere as much as we can. We decided to go cold turkey on the paci, luckily she also has a lovey. We’ve changed up bedtime routine, I stopped nursing her to sleep, we read a book before bed and put down AWAKE , however yawning, ear tugging and nose rubbing. If I fed her closer to bed time she would have been fast asleep, only to wake up between 01:00-02:00 demanding to co-sleep. Her last feed at night is at 18:45-19:00, followed by a 5a.m feed (breastfeeding)

    From reading plenty of sleep guides, it seems the key to sleeping through the night is having good naps? However, a baby won’t nap well if they aren’t sleeping through the night? my Lon naps 30-40 minutes – maybe -twice a day and that is only if I nurse her to sleep or previously gave a paci. She will sleep close to 2 hours if she co-sleeps which I often do with her in the morning as I try catch up on lost night time sleep.

    As I am now not feeding to sleep at night and doing the CIO maneuver – how do I manage naps? Do I also let her CIO, do I not feed to sleep? Do I not co-sleep? They really do need to be more structured but I have no clue how to do so.

    Alexis, you are such a hoot. When the wheels fall off and I need a little pep talk, reading your blog always makes me feel that it’s a mountain I CAN climb, and that it’s important to take a deep breath of the fresh air up there and admire the view before trudging on. Perspective is key!

    Thanks to all the mums who post their experiences, you too give me strength, as I see a little piece of my baby girl in each of your stories, and it makes me feel a little less lonely and ever hopeful!

    **

  12. Okay I’ve been reading this blog since my now almost 7 month old baby girl was 3 months. I love it. But, I’ve never commented or asked for help. I am now! I feel it’s my duty. :-)

    My little nugget is a pretty good night sleeper in her crib. She sleeps through the night or close to it, and has since about four months. Every so often she still has one night waking — but if she does wake, we can still usually count on 7pm-3am or 4am; after a 3-4 oz feeding, she easily goes back down until 6am or 630am (and on the days the sleep angels are with us, 7am. I love those days.) I do consider us lucky. She has a lovey, a white noise machine, and sometimes a quick paci is needed when we put her down – but most of the time, no paci at all.

    Here’s the thing – while she rarely if ever puts up a fight to fall asleep in her crib at night, she NEVER naps in her crib. She will only ever nap in her car seat. She can go for 2 hours or more at times, stationary in her car seat, in her room. She does not need motion. But with the crib, getting her to nap is like some sort of sweet torture. She can be exhausted, 2 or more hours after awake time in the morning, rubbing her eyes, yawning, even closing her eyes. I then put her in the crib and she is instantly AWAKE. Laughing, smiling, squealing. For 45+ minutes. I have tried check ins and shush pats. She just smiles her endearing “I know you think I’m cute” smile and starts to fuss if I leave. I’ve tried no check ins, but after 40 minutes of her half-partying/half-fussing I usually intervene. Sometimes she’s so tired she starts crying at the 20 minute mark, but still won’t fall asleep.

    When I can’t take it anymore I put her in the car seat next to the crib, and bam – asleep with her lovey and sometimes a paci/sometimes no paci within two minutes.

    I’m back at work, so I can’t work on changing this behavior all day long, but I do have a nanny with 15+ years of experience and even she has had little if any success with getting baby girl to nap in the crib. If she does succeed, it is after 45 to 50 minutes of not leaving her side, and the nap is maybe 30 minutes.

    Any thoughts, help, similar situations? I might add she is also getting too big for her car seat! We probably have one more month before we need to switch to the next level up … Grrr.

    • She’s got a HUGE car seat = sleep association so when you put her in the crib she’s thinking it’s playtime.

      This trips up tons of people – different parts of the brain manage day vs. night sleep so crib=sleep at NIGHT but she doesn’t understand that during the DAY. So, there you are.

      I would definitely put the car seat IN the crib as a transition. When you’re ready to be done full on then you’re done with the car seat. It may be a bit of a rocky transition for a while with short naps while she figures out that crib=sleep for NAPPING. At that point consistency is key so when you make the move you MAKE IT. No dabbling or trying it here and there. If you’re trying to get her to understand she naps in the crib then she naps in the crib 100% of the time.

      Will she take short naps forever? No. But it’ll take a while. Anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Be mindful that you aren’t creating bad habits by hanging out with her when she naps. You may want to consider that for a day or two while you transition but then you work towards not hanging around while she falls asleep.

      It’ll happen. It seems impossible, but I promise it will!
      Alexis recently posted..Pediatrics Study on White Noise: Sounding Off on Sound MachinesMy Profile

  13. So my husband and I have worked super hard at CIO and have been very successful…at nighttime. We are well into our third week of trying CIO at naptime, as we have a consistent 30 minute napper, but we’ve seen nothing in terms of improvements. She goes to bed at night, totally awake, and falls asleep on her own with little or no crying. She’s a disaster at nap time. I’ve tried putting her down well before she becomes overtired, reducing her awake time, but that doesn’t seem to make any difference. She screams herself to sleep (usually about 20-30 min of crying) and sleeps for exactly 30. On the rare occasion that she falls asleep well, she’s still up after 30. We leave her to fall back asleep- sometimes for as long as an hour, but she will not. I’m beyond frustrated, as my child is exhausted, I’m exhausted, and our victorious nighttime seems useless, as this short nap leaves my baby exhausted and miserable throughout the day. Help!!

    • And just like that, after 2-3 weeks, the kid is napping. It’s not completely consistent yet, but she’s almost always falling back asleep after she starts stirring at the 30 min mark and will usually have two hour-hour and a half naps, in her crib, every day. So, there is hope after all!

      • Meg – I know this was a while ago, but could you perhaps tell me how old your daughter was when she went through this? I felt like you took the words right out of my mouth. My daughter is 14 weeks old and has turned into the disaster napper.

  14. Suzannah Green

    I’ve totally followed all the steps with the swing during the day and she still won’t be asleep after 30-40 minutes of swinging, after which time she gets grumpy and red faced and upset.

    I need help I don’t know what to do any more, I end up having to swing her myself in my arms to get her to nap, however at night she will settle and soothe herself to sleep no problem at all. During the day she won’t soothe herself to nap and when I do get her to sleep its short naps.

    She’s 4 months old, I’ve gone wrong somewhere and wonder if it’s too late to correct?

    • Step #1 – rock her to sleep in your arms.
      Step #2 – sneak her into the swing for the remainder of the nap
      Step #3 – once you’ve been successful for the “sneak and swing” for a few days (or when you’re feeling sassy and confident) retry having her fall asleep in the swing. Also don’t forget the possibility of turning the motor off and jiggling/swinging the swing manually. This can be a really helpful technique for babies who are struggling to fall asleep.

      It’d DEFINITELY not too late to correct. This is the perfect time to work with it! Good luck :)
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..7 Days to Chunky Naps and 11 Hour Nights – Reader Q&A My Profile

  15. Hi Alexis! You’ve helped me in the past with my now 2 yr old and now I need advice about my 8 week old! My son’s naps are actually getting shorter and shorter. They used to be long, 1.5-2 hour naps, but now that he is becoming more aware of the world, his naps have gone down to 1hr, then 45 min, and now 35min. Does this mean that he was just in that newborn fog those first few weeks and that he is in actuality a catnapper for now? I’m only so desperate for a solution because my poor 2 yr old is bored out of her mind because I spend my whole day nursing the baby and putting him to sleep. And since his naps are so short, our feed-play-sleep cycles are like 2 hours t best! He isn’t even really hungry that often but that’s how often I feed him, otherwise he might end up hungry during the NEXT nap. Know what I mean? He also used to fall asleep on his own in his crib for naps, but now is wanting to be held until he’s asleep. And if he’s now asleep “enough”, he’ll wake after 3-4 minutes and start crying, and we start the process again. If I go in and hold him after the first 35-45min when he wakes he will immediately fall back asleep. So I hold him for awhile and put him back down, where he will sleep another 30-90 minutes! But I don’t have that luxury all day, I only do that during my 2yr old’s nap. So am I destined for short naps until he gets whole consolidation thing figured out? He will sleep longer in an Ergo, but that is frequently not an option, and he doesn’t fall asleep in a swing even on the highest speed… Thoughts?!?

    Btw, my 2yr old is the night waker that drove you to your text books to find a solution… She wakes for hours during the night and just lays alone quietly. Remember that?? You had said that the only thing u could find was restless leg syndrome. We ruled that out, along with dairy intolerance, and we tried longer naps, shorter naps, later bedtime, earlier bedtime, and the list goes on. Moral of the story, she still wakes, and we’ve found no solution, 9 months after discovering the problem… Oh well, I’ve got bigger (or, smaller!) newborn problems now…!!!

  16. My little girl is 2 1/2 months old. For the past few weeks she was consistently taking two 2 1/2-4 hour naps every day in her swing. She sleeps in four hour stretches at night. This week she’s started regressing and is only sleeping for a half hour at a time in her swing. Every little noise wakes her even if we have white noise going. The terrifying part is that I go back to work next week and she’ll be starting daycare. I’m worried that she won’t nap well at daycare and will be a grumpy mess by the time I pick her up in the afternoon. Help!

    • I forgot to add that she starts to fuss if she’s awake and is left in the swing, bouncer, pack n play alone. I can tell she’s exhausted but will not contently swing by herself anymore.

  17. I’m wondering if anyone else has a problem with another culprit to blame for short naps: WIND! I have a 10 week old and it’s the bane of my existence. She often wakes herself up about 30 minutes into a nap because she either has a burp or a fart or both. Often I’m treated to a whole little symphony played solely by the wind section. This always seems to happen about 2 hours after she was fed. I’ve tried feeding her closer to the nap to try and get more sleeping in before the trumping starts but this usually doesn’t help and in fact then she just burps AND spits up. She’s a tummy sleeper (I know, I know – bad mummy, but she won’t sleep on her back) and sleeps in her cot unless we are out. I think this probably exacerbates the whole burping thing, not to mention resulting in lots of burp stains on sheets. Often she’s really upset at getting woken up and then I get treated to a lot of screaming as she tries to get back to sleep. Weirdly she never has this problem at night. Has anyone else had this problem and did it just sort itself out in time?

  18. Awesome site! This gave me the confidence to start sleep training my 7 month old TWINS.

    My story:
    my boy was a disaster at bedtime, nap time, you name it. He would fight, screaming and thrashing every single time. Both babies were waking multiple times a night (I’m talking 4 or 5 times…each!) and Hunter required a ridiculous combo of eating, walking, rocking, jiggling, and singing for at least 30 minutes just to go back to sleep. My husband works 8 pm to 5 am, so I am alone at night.(oh and I have a 2 Yr old who somehow always ends up in my bed). It was getting to the point where I was in danger of hurting myself or a baby while zombie walking through the halls all night, desperately trying to get the damn kids to sleep!

    The first few days of CIO were a little rough. We went with the Ferber method, but it just made the twins freak out even worse when we went in to check on them. So after a few days we stopped that, and just like magic, my babies became sleep trained! Hunter has done a complete 180: when I put him down for bed, he doesn’t even cry, just turns on his side and goes right to sleep. Sansa cries for just a few minutes before settling down. They both wake only twice now (currently night weaning) and it’s amazing. But we are struggling with Sansa’s nap times.

    My questions:

    How long should I let a baby cry before abandoning nap time? How long should I wait to put her down again?

    If a baby wakes up mid-nap due to some outside cause (a screaming toddler in the room next door), should I go in to offer comfort, or should I let them CIO again?

    Any tips for twins napping? Sansa gets very mad at nap time and while Hunter will still fall asleep while she screams, he will wake up and scream too later in the nap.

    Thanks!

    • Hey Jenna,

      So glad you’ve gotten things on a good path at bedtime :) Naps, however, are a tricky wicket. So I can’t just throw out a quick pointer and make everything better. Sadly.

      If possible, it sounds like the twins would do better napping in separate rooms. Also you want to use loud white noise and keep the room DARK to block out as many external distractions as possible (screaming toddlers and such). If they wake up mid-nap give them some time to re-settle but if it’s not happening, it’s not.

      Some days are like that :)

      Ideally by 7 months you have them napping on some sort of a schedule so they’re going down at the same time every day (this is a change from when they were younger and naps floated about more). This will help they’re bodies be ready to sleep at those fixed times and hopefully break you out of the “do we abandon nap time” thing because it’ll be more regular.

      Anyway twins are HAAAARD but you’re over the hump. Good luck with everything!
      Alexis Dubief recently posted..7 Sleep Lessons from a Stanford Pediatric Sleep SpecialistMy Profile

  19. Hi hi! And help please! We read and followed your sleep training night edition like it was gold… And it was, it totally worked! Our daughter took 3 nights to put herself to sleep with no crying and sleep 10 hours straight… And she has been since! So we waited a week or two to make sure that really established and tried to do nap training. Holy smokes. Utter fail!! She just cries straight through the hour and never falls asleep!! Ever! All day long!! Now I have a psychotic baby who hasn’t napped in 3 days. What the heck do we do? We have black out curtains a sound machine and do a shortened version of our night routine before naps. She’s turning into a clingy mess all the rest of the day when she is awake and I can’t help but wonder if this is actually good for my little girl. Please help, I’m about at my wits end and I’m not confident I’m doing this well so it’s hard to stay committed to it. She just turned one last weekend. Thanks Alexis, we need you!

  20. So grateful for all the helpful info on this website! I am at my wit’s end with the 30 minute naps. I know your advice is that under 6 months they may not be ready. My son is 5 months. He is so obviously tired through out the day. He wakes up yawning. After 1 hour he is fussy. It is making it impossible to break the nurse = sleep association because no matter when or where I nurse him, he starts to fall asleep. I have tried EVERYTHING to make him nap better, but nothing helps. I have followed all the advice and still he will only sleep 30 minutes. Sometimes in order to get him to sleep at all I resort to a pacifier but I worry that the pacifier will become a problem. I spend all day trying to get him to nap. I am trapped to the house with my 3 year old. I am exhausted and just want him to be a happy baby. Really hoping it will magically improve in a month but I am doubtful.

  21. How do I get my 2 month old to nap longer? For the past two weeks she wakes up after 25-30 min. We darkened her room, play white noise, swaddle her rock her to sleep and put her in her swing. We don’t know what else to do! She sleeps well at night under those same conditions….

    • Oh and she would sleep longer if I didn’t put her down but I don’t have it in me to be rocking in my arms her all day…

  22. Hello do you have any advice on extending 1.5 hour naps to 2-2.5 hour naps? I have a 14 month old who usuallt takes two 1.5 hour naps a day but recently with first molars coming through and nearing age of transition to one nap having trouble getting to sleep and fitting both in so sleepy enough by bedtime which is around 7.30pm. Looking at sleep charts looks like she’ll need 2 hours or more of daytime sleep if only napping once a day but this doesn’t often happen. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this.

  23. My LO is 7 months and sleep between 10-11 hours at night from anywhere between 7-8pm and 6am. She has her milk in the nursery and then read a story and then settled herself to sleep.

    I follow a similar routine after lunch to try and get her to sleep but I cannot get her to sooty herself to nap yet she will do it at night? HELP I’m tearing my hair out as during the day I have an overtime stubborn baby so will not go it to sleep in her cot like she will at night.

  24. Hello all –

    I am wondering if someone has some thoughts re my 2nd daughter’s sleep behavior.

    A bit of context:
    We have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, great sleeper, 7p – 7a and 2-3 hour nap over lunch. Sleep training was easy and at 9 month she slept 12 hours + 2 long naps (about 2 hours each).

    2nd daughter is now 8 1/2 months. She sleeps fairly consistent from 6p – 5a (and then goes back until 6.20a after a feeding) BUT is TERRIBLE with naps. Usually we get about 30-40min and she is tired. We have tried about anything: lying her down every hour, having a consistent sleep schedule incl. soothing her, leaving her to cry until she has been in a dark room for at least an hour (she usually goes back to sleep after a few minutes of crying). We have a consistent routine, consistent dark place with white noise, quiet environment. I just CANNOT figure it out. HELP?!
    She is currently in a developmental growth spurt, standing, crawling but she has never been a great sleeper so I don’t think I can take the excuse of sleep regression here.

    Thanks!
    Kirsten

  25. My 4 month old will nap for 2+ hours if held but if I put him down to nap in his crib, I’m lucky to get 20 min. At night, he sleeps in his crib from 7-7 with one feeding. How do I lengthen his daytime sleep in his crib? I have a 3 year old so I cannot whole my baby for every nap.

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